From Freedom to Fertility - The End of War, Parental Selection and Children's Outcomes (Job Market Paper)

This paper studies whether children who are conceived during a period of better socioeconomic circumstances grow up in more or less stable families, and whether this affects their adult outcomes more than 50 years later. It considers a large exogenous change in socioeconomic conditions resulting from the end of WWII in the Netherlands. I exploit regional differences in the timing and magnitude of the improved socioeconomic conditions, which caused a Birth Peak in the area that experienced the largest change in socioeconomic conditions. The regional variation is used to compare children conceived before and after the liberation in a difference-in-difference framework. Using Dutch administrative data, the results show that children born in regions that faced a larger shock to the socioeconomic environment are not raised in more or less stable families, and do not fare better or worse in adulthood. Two types of behaviors played a role during the Birth Peak: (1) delayed conceptions, and (2) liberation celebrations leading to unanticipated conceptions. When distinguishing between these two groups, it appears that the latter group grows up in less stable families, although this does not translate into poorer long-term adult outcomes. I can dismiss that cohort-specific effects mask any parental selection effects.

Biology and the Gender Gap in Educational Performance - The Role of Prenatal Testosterone in Test Scores (Joint with Anne C. Gielen) - under review

This paper explores the contribution of biological factors in explaining gender differences in educational performance, and focuses on the role of prenatal testosterone. We exploit that prenatal testosterone is hypothesized to transfer in-utero from a male twin to his twin sibling causing exogenous variation in prenatal testosterone exposure in twins. Using Dutch administrative data, we find that girls with a twin brother score 7% of a standard deviation lower on math compared to girls with a twin sister after controlling for socialization effects. Adherence to traditional gender norms can explain this finding, implying that our results are not just driven by biology but materialize depending on environmental factors.

Last But (Not) Least: Aversion to the Lowest Educational Track

A dislike for being last might generate behavioral responses from the parents as to avoid this outcome, and hence might affect their child's educational and labor market outcomes. This study analyzes such behavioral responses in the context of educational enrollment. To do so, I exploit a Dutch educational reform in secondary education that merged the two lowest educational tracks. Thus, this implied that those who would first enroll in the second-lowest track would now enroll in the lowest track. I analyze how this reform impacts the enrollment decision, which is determined by a teacher recommendation and performance on a standardized test. Focusing on children who are most likely to be affected by the reform, I find that fewer children enroll in the lowest track. Test-scores increased, even after conditioning on the child's background characteristics and ability. This can be explained by increased test-motivation for children, or by parental investments in tutoring and homework assistance to avoid enrollment in the lowest track.

The Power of the Dutch Pill (Joint with Olivier Marie)